Upgrading to VMware vSphere 4

Get a step-by-step approach to the three main phases of vSphere implementation -- upgrading vCenter Server, performing the ESX Server migration and upgrading the virtual machines.

With the release of VMware's vSphere 4, you've no doubt received questions from your customers about either upgrading to vSphere or implementing vSphere from scratch. Before you start building servers and virtual machines (VMs), there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

More resources on implementing and upgrading to vSphere:

Upgrading virtual machines for vSphere implementation

Maximizing VMware vSphere 4 performance

Tuning vSphere 4 hardware for optimal performance

Cisco Unified Computing System vs. VMware vSphere 4

VARs see vSphere 4 as opening for managed services bid

You have to decide whether an upgrade or a new implementation is better for the customer. Next, you need to work with your customer to determine how the company wants to manage its host servers and guest VMs. The hosts can be relatively unmanaged as standalone servers or managed through VMware's vCenter Server.

Upgrading to vSphere

This tip primarily focuses on upgrading to vSphere because most of your enterprise-level customers probably already have VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) in place. There are four different upgrade scenarios that you'll most likely encounter, the first two being the most common:

Most common deployment scenarios

  1. ESX hosts in a VI3 cluster and some standalone ESX hosts with local boot disks or shared disks managed by vCenter.

  2. ESX hosts in a VI3 cluster with local boot disks or shared disks managed by vCenter.

  3. Standalone ESX Servers not in a VI3 cluster with local and/or shared disks and not managed by vCenter.

  4. ESX hosts not in a VI3 cluster with local and/or shared disks and managed by vCenter.

Let's focus on the process for the most common upgrade scenario that you're going to encounter, which is upgrading existing clusters that are being managed by vCenter and maybe have some standalone ESX hosts. There are basically three steps that you will need to lay out when upgrading to vSphere 4 in this scenario:

1. Upgrade the vCenter Server

During this phase, you'll have to upgrade the vCenter Server to the vSphere level and also update the VMware vCenter Update Manager. You should also work with your customers to verify if they require VMware Converter Enterprise and the VMware Guided Consolidation components. If your customer wants or needs these components, this phase is a good time to implement them and the associated client agents.

Once you've upgraded the vCenter Server, you'll notice that when logging in to vCenter, all of the hosts are showing in an alarm state. That's to be expected, because the new version of vCenter introduces a set of new alarms. A new capability in the new version of vCenter is the ability to change yellow and red alarms back to green.

To set the alarms to green from the vCenter console, expand the cluster that you are upgrading and click on the Alarms view. Next, select all of the hosts, right-click and choose Reset to Green. This will help you during the migration by identifying which hosts are having issues from the upgrade process.

2. Perform the ESX migration

During Phase 2, you'll conduct the migration to the newest version of VMware ESX. Here are three ways that you can migrate to VMware ESX 4.0:

  1. Do a clean install of VMware ESX 4.0.

  2. Use the VMware vCenter Update Manager to push the upgraded bits to the hosts. To upgrade the hosts using the VMware vCenter Update Manager:
    • Click on the Update Manager tab.

    • Right-click in the Baseline window and choose New Baseline.

    • Enter in a name, such as Host Upgrade, and a description of what your upgrade is going to do. Enable the Host Upgrade radio button in the baseline type and click Next.

    • Now, you need to select the upgrade bits for the hosts. If you are updating the ESX Server, choose an ISO. If you are updating ESXi, you'll choose the ZIP file update. If your customers have both ESX and ESXi, you can choose both sets of files at this time. Once you've chosen your upgrade bits, click Next.

    • Once you select Next, you will get a security warning. Choose to install the certificate and click Ignore. After you click Ignore, the update wizard will upload the ESX or ESXi upgrade bits to the Update Manager.

    • The update wizard will now ask you where the COS VMDK location is on your environment. You can choose to let the Update Manager automatically place the data store on the local host, try the local host first, then go to a shared data store, or you can choose a shared data source by using the drop-down menu. If you choose the local data source method and there is no local data source on the local host, the update wizard will fail. If you choose a specific data source, make sure that all of the hosts being updated have access to the data source that you choose. Make your selection based on what's best for your customer and click Next.

    • Now you have to decide if you would like to have the vCenter Server try to reboot the host and roll back the upgrade in the event of a failure. Select any post upgrade scripts and then click Next.

    • Click on Finish to start creating the baseline.

    • Once the baseline is created, click on the Hosts and Clusters view.

    • Select the cluster that you would like to upgrade.

    • Click on the Upgrade Manager tab.

    • Right-click in the Attached Baselines window and choose Attach.

    • Check the box next to the upgrade baseline that you just created, and click Attach.

    • Click on the hosts in the attached baseline window, and then click on the Scan Link in the upper-right corner.

    • Deselect Patches and select the Upgrades box.

    • Click Scan to start the scan.

    • If a host is not in compliance with the upgrade, click on the Remediate button to remediate that host for the upgrade and to start the remediate wizard.

    • Click the name of the baseline you just created, and click Next.

    • Read and accept the End User License Agreement and click Next.

    • You can choose to review or change any settings that you made to your baseline by clicking on the blue links to the right of the task. Click Next if everything looks OK.

    • Select if you would like to immediately remediate the host or schedule the upgrade, and also specify what should happen if the task fails. Click Next.

    • Review your settings and click Finish.

    • You can then click on the Tasks and Event Views tab and monitor the upgrade or your host systems. If the hosts are in a cluster with vMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS), the task sequence will put the host into Maintenance mode and vMotion the virtual machines to another host while the upgrade is occurring. If your hosts are not part of an active DRS cluster, the upgrade will wait for you to manually vMotion the VMs to another host.

  3. Use the Host Update Utility to upgrade ESX hosts that are not part of a vCenter instance.
  • To use the Host Update Utility, click on Start -> All Programs -> VMware -> Host Upgrade Utility 4.0.

  • Click Don't Ask Again, and then click No.

  • Highlight the hosts that you want to upgrade and then click Upgrade Host.

  • Click on Browse and browse to the location that you've already downloaded the ESX upgrade bits.

  • Accept the license agreement and click Next.

  • Enter the credentials of the server that you want to upgrade. The account you use will more than likely be "Root", which is the local administrator account on ESX.

  • The update wizard will run compatibility checks and then ask you which data store to place the Console operating system in. Choose the location and click Next.

  • Choose if you want the update wizard to try to reboot the host in the event of a failure and add any post upgrade scripts. Then, click Next.

  • Click Finish to start the upgrade process.

Read the third step in implementing vSphere 4 : Upgrading virtual machines.

About the expert
Jason Kappel is an infrastructure architect and virtualization expert at Avanade Inc. He specializes in enterprise infrastructure and data center optimization, virtualization and systems management. He has worked with some of the largest companies in the world to implement green data center solutions and has implemented several multinational server and desktop virtualization systems.


This was first published in October 2009

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